Those who want tougher laws against undocumented immigration often argue that undocumented immigrants cost American taxpayers a lot of money. Those who want amnesty and some relaxing of rules for undocumented immigrants claim that immigrants – even those who do not arrive in the country through legal means – are good for the economy.
Most people who believe that undocumented immigrants are a drain on taxpayer dollars believe that undocumented immigrants do not pay income taxes. According to VSU Sociology Professor Tom Hochschild, however, two thirds of employed undocumented immigrants do pay income taxes and pay into Social Security and Medicare. Since, by their very definition, undocumented immigrants leave no paper trail, however, it is difficult to determine how much this population pays in taxes. According to Hochschild, however, it seems that undocumented immigrants pay $400 million more in taxes than they use in benefits, which seems to suggest that this part of the population actually is beneficial for the economy.
According to Hochschild, the reality is that many undocumented immigrants do not file tax returns because they do not live in the country legally or work legally. However, this does not mean that they can avoid taxes. Whenever they make a purchase of food, clothing, or any item in a store they are paying sales taxes. As well, every undocumented immigrant pays property taxes, whether through the rent that allows a landlord to pay income taxes or by buying a property. According to the Social Security Administration, about half of all undocumented immigrants pay into Social Security. This is because if undocumented immigrants get fake Social Security cards to be able to work in the US, they must pay into the benefits.
Many undocumented immigrants do not have medical insurance, according to researchers. As a result, some need to rely on emergency room care for medical care. Since emergency room care is more expensive than a typical doctor’s visit, this is sometimes seen as a drain on the system. However, there are immigrant clinics that cater to undocumented immigrants, and these clinics are less expensive.
In addition, another consideration is that undocumented immigrants have access to fewer benefits than legal immigrants or citizens, so while they pay taxes in the form of sales taxes, property taxes, and other forms of taxes, they may get fewer benefits and may seek fewer benefits since they are concerned about showing their status. This may be one reason why Hochschild found a discrepancy between the amount of taxes undocumented immigrants pay and the benefits for this population.
Finally, some researchers point out that undocumented immigrants do contribute to the economy in other ways than just taxes. Some industries – such as agriculture – rely heavily on undocumented labor, and access to this labor allows US producers to keep costs down. According to experts, undocumented immigrants in many cases perform jobs that US-born workers are unwilling to do, and often at low wages. These jobs boost the economy and allow entire industries to survive.